Your family vacations are generally spent in places, which are highly popular amongst the general populace. True, these places are gloriously beautiful, offering many attractions that permit you to store wonderful memories for the future. However, do you have to do the same thing year after year? No, you do not! Try something different for a change this year. Plan to hobnob with the majestic and splendid-looking tigers, as well as with other mammals residing at Ranthambhore National Park. Your senses will be delighted by the sight of rare flora too.
Why Ranthambore? The Park is located in Sawai Madhopur, a district of Rajasthan State. Back in 1955, the Indian Government declared it the Sawai Madhopur Gaming Sanctuary. In 1973, it became renowned as Project Tiger Reserve. It was opened up to the public in 1980, as Ranthambore National Park. Finally, in 1984, Sawai Mansingh and Keladevi Sanctuaries were included into the Park. Today, the whole area measures 500 sq km.
The Park is situated in between Aravalli and Vindhya mountain ranges, which form its boundaries on either side. The huge Ranthambhore Fort atop a hill keeps like a sentinel offer amazing view of the landscape. The deciduous forests are dotted with ruins of bygone eras, enabling you to taste the flavours of the old and the new. Best of all, the tigers of Ranthambhore care less about people in their territory. They even award you a first-hand view of a hunt in progress.
Thus, if you are an enthusiastic wildlife photographer, your camera will never be able to stay still!The Park is home not only to the royal tigers, but also to plenty of other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds, etc. If you desire to know the exact numbers, there are 40 types of mammals, two species of amphibians, 50 species of butterflies, 40 types of reptiles and 320 species of birds. Apart from the fauna, you will adore the unique types of flora (300 species) on display throughout the forest and sanctuaries. The waters from several lakes and two rivers (Banas and Chambal) suffice to make this an ideal paradise for the fauna and the flora. In fact, one region is covered with dense trees, water holes and small pools. This is the Bakaula area, a favourite haunt for tigresses with their young. It’s cool and well protected from enemy eyes. What more could they, or you, ask for?
Your first concern whenever you step out of the comfort of your own home, is, “Where will we stay?” Well, you need not worry, for there are many hotels and resorts around the place, which are open throughout the year. For instance, the 80-year-old heritage building, Hotel Vivanta (earlier renowned as Sawai Madhopur Lodge) offers an experience in old-world charm that you will never forget for the rest of your life! The luxurious resort, The Oberoi Vanyavilas, with its pools, courtyard dining, tents, etc, is a total contrast to Vivanta. Other places include Khem Vilas, Dev Vilas, Aman-i-Khas, Sher Bagh, Nahargarh, etc. Alternatively, there are comfortable lodges provided by the Government of Rajasthan, too. Take your choice, depending upon the length of your stay and your budget.
All this is fine, but how are you actually going to get to Ranthambore in Rajasthan? If you are travelling by train, your destination should be Sawai Madhopur. You will be able to reach Ranthambore National Park via bus, cab or taxi within a short time, for it is just 11 km away. If you prefer to travel by road, well, private buses, state buses and taxis are willing to take you to your destination. All the major towns and cities connect to Ranthambore via national highways. Would you like to fly to Ranthambore? You will have to land at the Sanganer Airport in Jaipur. Use a taxi or bus to reach the Park. Do note that tigers are reluctant to make themselves visible between July and August, that is, the monsoon. The best season to visit them is between November and March. However, you are still welcome to book safaris for trekking through the forest by horse, elephant or jeep, between June and October. After all, there are other fauna and flora to observe. If you would like to take note of the exact timings of the safaris, here they are.
• For the entire month of October, you may book a trip in the morning (7 to 10:30 AM) or in the evening (2:30 to 6:00 PM). • The timing of the morning trip remains the same from 1st November to 31st January. The evening trip lasts from 2:00 to 5:30 PM).
• From 1st February to 31st March, it is 6:30 to 10:00 AM in the morning and 2:30 to 6:00 PM in the evening.
• Right from 1st April to 30th June, you may roam the forests from 6:00 in the morning to 9:30 AM.
As for the evening trip, you will be allowed to stay from 3:00 to 6:30 PM until 15th May, and from 3:30 to 7:00 PM thereafter.
You may even check out various packages on offer, along with the pricing of each. The duration and pricing of each package is different. As for clothing, do keep it suitable for the soaring temperatures of summer and the freezing cold of winter, dependent upon when you plan to visit the Park.
The Ranthambore Fort can make you feel terribly small indeed! It overlooks the entire Park. You will have to gather all your physical stamina and mental alertness to walk up to the main entrance, for no transport can make its way up the hill. Take along a pair of binoculars and a powerful camera, wear sturdy walking shoes and dress in casual clothing. You will be able to spot soaring Serpent eagles, vultures, etc, as well as, an occasional big cat or two. The architecture of the Fort and the historical tales associated with it should make this a tremendously worthwhile trip for your family. A guide will provide marvellous information.
Do not miss the Raj Bagh ruins while you are there. They are located between Padam Talao (the largest lake in the Park) and Raj Bagh Talao. You will be awed by the beauty of the palace outhouses, domes, arches and steps from earlier times. The water lilies of Padam Lake and the animals standing at its edge in large numbers, only add to the glorious aura of this region. If you are lucky, you may even obtain a rare sighting of the Chinkara deer. Rajbagh Lake is equally picturesque, especially with the sight of the Sambhar deer plucking plants from the lake’s floor. Egrets take free rides on the backs of these deer. There is another lake that you should not miss, which is Malik Talao. It is frequented by a large population of birds, as well as healthy specimens of the Indian Marsh Crocodile. You may even witness Kingfishers showing off their expert dives while capturing fish.
At the outskirts of this Park, you will find the Kachida Valley boasting of several low hills and varied outcrops. Become part of a jeep safari and go looking for the elusive panthers and bears in the Valley. They prefer to keep away from ‘tiger’ territory and have peace of mind!
Towards the north-west region of the Park, you will come across Lakarda Anantpura. Since anthills flourish in this area, sloth bears are found in abundant numbers too. The bears may feel too shy to show you their faces. However, the Indian Striped Hyenas are sometimes visible. Even if they are not, you will be alerted of their presence by their prominent pugmarks.
Since you are going to be there for some time, do try to visit nearby places. They are Jaipur, Agra and Bharatpur.